'Finished' product

'Finished' product

He was an offensive liability for the Tennessee basketball team last winter. No matter how close to the basket he got the ball, he usually passed it without even looking to shoot. On those rare occasions when he did try to score he struggled to finish.

There was a different Brian Williams on display Tuesday night in the Rocky Top Summer League, however. The 6-10, 270-pound Vol senior sank 11 of 18 floor shots and 3 of 4 foul shots en route to 25 points in helping DeRoyal dump Richardson Construction 115-104.

One second-half play, in particular, was worthy of note. Getting the ball in heavy traffic, Williams spun to his left and launched a fall-away 6-footer that settled gently into the netting.

"I've been working on that," Williams explained, smiling softly. "Coach told me that I've got to be almost a go-to guy in the post. I've got to work on my offensive moves."

No one expects him to replace the 12 points per game Wayne Chism averaged as the starting post in 2009-10 but head coach Bruce Pearl wants Williams to be a lot more offensive minded than before. "Big Baby" played 18 minutes per game last season but averaged less than 5.0 shots per outing and made less than 50 percent of the attempts, despite shooting mostly from point-blank range.

The fact Williams took 18 shots Tuesday night suggests he is developing a new-found assertiveness.

"Got to," he said. "That's what Coach wants me to do, and this (Rocky Top League) is the first place I could work on it besides in the gym. I'm really working on it, and I think it's really showing."

Melvin Goins, a teammate of Williams in the Vol program and in the summer league, believes the change in the big guy is obvious.

"Brian has improved tremendously," Goins said. "He's more aggressive. He attacks the rim more. He does the things we always knew he could do. He's implementing them into his game and taking advantage of his opportunities."

After sinking just 59 percent of his free throws last season, Williams has worked hard on that phase of the game in recent months.

"I think free-throw shooting is the most-improved part of my game," he said. "Coach told me I've got to get to the line eight times a game, so if they give me the ball I'm going to run up to the rim and see if I can get fouled."

Getting to the line eight times is nearly impossible in the Rocky Top League, where "no blood, no foul" is the unofficial motto.

"We was playing physical out there," Williams conceded, "but that's competition, and that's what we need to get better."

As the biggest guy in the Rocky Top League, Williams routinely faces smaller, faster inside players. That should help him develop the quickness and anticipation he needs to become a better post defender.

"Definitely," he said. "Obviously, the Tennessee players know what each other like to do, so it's helping us on defense guarding people that we don't know what they're going to do. That's giving us a better chance to play D."

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